Half-Life 2: A Concerned Retrospective (Part 2)

(See part 1 if you’re unsure what’s going on here.)

Concerned #028

Ah yes. If I recall correctly, this is the first time we ever lay eyes on Combine Adviser in the game. (Obviously this happens much earlier in the comic, but since we’re following along with the comic in the article, that’s how it’s gonna be.)

I’m pretty sure I didn’t know the significance of what I was looking at in the game, when I saw these guys for the first time. To be fair, I still don’t, not completely–I do get that he (it?) must be the Combine’s equivalent of Breen–not in the traitor sense, but in the sense that it’s the alien liaison with humanity. I wish we had heard more of Breen’s interaction with it…I’m curious what this specific alien thinks of humans. Does it look down on us? Pity us? Think of us like cattle? Is it completely indifferent? I don’t know. But I really hope we get to find out in Episodes 1 and 2.

Also, I just want to say that I love the idea of Frohman cheerfully taking a message from the Adviser without questioning anything at all.

Concerned #030

I did quite like the scene where Freeman appears briefly to Breen; it was a great device to get our main hero and villain face to face in the beginning, and helped set the stakes. Breen is clearly disbelieving, and perhaps even afraid of Gordon as he says the name. It’s little things like that that make we want to know so much more about the stories that were told while Gordon was in eh. Storage. How did his story go from one of pure survival (as we know it was, from playing through *Half-Life*) to some sort of messianic savior? Even the rebels seem to imply that they’ve been waiting for his return to strike. It’s so strange, and so interesting. There’s a while article in theorizing about that, really.

Speaking of strange: WHY DO THEY NEVER TRY TO TELEPORT INTO BREEN’S OFFICE AGAIN?! Could that be any MORE dangerous than storming the Citadel head on?!

Worst. Rebels. Ever.

 

Concerned #032

If you ask me again in an hour, I’ll probably point to something else…but somehow, I do always seem to come back to the apartment escape (the first real action sequence of the game) as maybe my favorite part. It’s just an amazing amount of world building in such a short time, and is absolutely *perfectly paced.* Like for real you guys, go back and play it again, and pay attention to how brilliant the pace is.

It starts off by you wandering past people outside, discussing the raid. Then you enter the building, and see the Metro Cops kicking down a door–but they aren’t after you; they do the thing they’ve been doing since the start of the game and just push you away.

So there’s tension, but not that much. The cops are here sure; but they’re beating up those OTHER poor schmucks. They aren’t after YOU. And as a player, this gives you a moment to breathe, to look around, to talk to the NPCs and get some story, maybe listen to the Breencast…

And THEN all hell breaks loose.

Now they ARE after you. But it’s not just you, not at first. They’re rounding up the whole building. Somehow, this is even more terrifying than them hunting you specifically. You aren’t some hero (not yet anyway), and you heave no weapon. You simply…run. With everyone else. You run for your life.

It’s absolutely harrowing, and brilliant in its perfectly executed escalation. The perfect cut in this shining gem of a game.

Also: Frohman is a dick. But I love him anyway. (I really am a sucker for that kind of joke. You can see it coming a mile away, but those quick turn the meaning of something on its head wordplay gags always crack me up.)

 

Concerned #034

Obviously we’ll talk a lot more about Ravehnholm when the comic gets there. I just wanted to say that, if anyone in the world would actually not only type out HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!, but add that to an advertisement, it would be Father Grigori.

 

Concerned #035

Frohman loves striders almost as much as I hate them. Honestly, his innocent adoration of them is one of my favorite running gags in the whole strip.

 

Concerned #037

And we segue right into one of my single favorite comics in the whole series. I can, at times, be pretentious and snotty. I’m an English major after all. My favorite pastime is reading great literature. I work in a theatre, and go to see great works of art (especially Shakespeare) on the regular.

But god damn. Frohman cutting Barney off in that last panel with “bullsqid” will never, ever, not make me laugh out loud. We all know the sort of asshole Frohman is being here, and the comic just captures the essence of That Guy so perfectly.

 

Concerned #038

I mean, do any of us really doubt that if Kleiner could get away with keeping an antlion queen in his lab, he would?

I do love Lamarr though. Not only is the name one of the more obscure (and hilarious) puns in Half-Life, it really IS nice to see an enemy that becomes a friend. (Well…at least a friend to Kleiner, if not us.)

 

Concerned #040

I didn’t play much Counter-Strike as a kid (though I certainly did do time in dust, believe me), so we won’t be covering Frohman’s detour into this game much.

I will say, this describes my entire experience with online competitive gaming in a nutshell, though.

 

Concerned #042

Okay, so I had to include this one for a couple reasons. First, it describes my experience with online gaming communities in a nutshell–to this day, unfortunately. Back when online gaming was in its infancy though, well…yeah. It was really, REALLY bad. This comic honestly isn’t a bad representation of what a lot of early Counter-Strike games were like.

Second, this is issue #42, and we can’t NOT include it.

Third, “I’ve called Valve a fag, what more can I do?!” is my single favorite line in the entire run of the comic.

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed this retrospective! Next time: Route Banal!

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3 responses to “Half-Life 2: A Concerned Retrospective (Part 2)

  1. Maybe Gordon got famous among the citizens/rebels purely because he survived so much crap in Black Mesa? It sounds like the entire world went to hell even before the Combine arrived, so a story of someone who managed to survive an incredibly deadly situation would appeal to people trying to do the same. Plus Gordon seems to have made a big impression on the Vortigaunts, and they seem to be everywhere in the resistance movement. Maybe people just really needed a modern-day Messiah figure, and Gordon ticked all the boxes (humble origins, incredible deeds, vanished but not actually dead, etc.).

    I never really thought about why the rebels didn’t try a teleport assault on the Citadel. Maybe the Combine actually does have some sort of defense against that sort of thing, and the G-Man circumvented it to get things moving the way he wanted? I’ve always assumed he interfered with the teleporter accident somehow, given how awfully convenient it was that Gordon showed up in Breen’s office.

    • Maybe Gordon got famous among the citizens/rebels purely because he survived so much crap in Black Mesa? It sounds like the entire world went to hell even before the Combine arrived, so a story of someone who managed to survive an incredibly deadly situation would appeal to people trying to do the same.

      Absolutely. What I’m curious about isn’t so much the genesis of the myth (which you described very well here), but it’s evolution. How did it go from the scientists telling of a man who saved them (and then disappeared–why did people assume he would ever come back?! Surely everyone thought he died on Xen!), to someone who would one day return and fight off the alien army that had crushed the world so quickly? It must have been fascinating to watch that tale change and grow.

      Plus Gordon seems to have made a big impression on the Vortigaunts, and they seem to be everywhere in the resistance movement. Maybe people just really needed a modern-day Messiah figure, and Gordon ticked all the boxes

      I think you nailed it with the Vort explanation though. THEY knew exactly what Gordon did, and probably that he was still alive somehow. I bet it was them that spread the story (backed up by the Black Mesa survivors) and prophesied his return. I think it was less that they think humans needed a messiah, and more that they actually believe it though–they seem very sure of themselves. Either way, that is FUCKING COOL.

      I want more Vorts now.

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